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How should an employer respond when an employee makes suicidal statements?

Suicide  threats should always be taken seriously. The human resource professional or the employee's supervisor may be the first person to identify a potentially suicidal employee, so it is critical to recognize the warning signs and encourage at-risk employees to seek help.

If an employee appears to be planning to take action immediately, local emergency authorities should be contacted, since employers usually are not qualified to handle such a situation directly. If there are doubts as to whether the threat is immediate, the employer should contact local services, such as an employee assistance program, suicide hotline or hospital. Given the risks of failing to take action, it is best to seek professional assistance as soon as possible.

If the threat becomes known through second-hand information, it may be necessary to investigate the circumstances before taking any action. Though unlikely, it is possible the comment was a casual remark, made in poor taste, in reaction to excessive work-related demands that may be addressed between the employee and the supervisor. Assure the person who provided the information that the employee's safety is more important than maintaining confidentiality. When it is not possible to obtain confirmation about the validity of the threat, it is better to seek professional intervention through one of the sources suggested in this article than to delay action.

Though it may be tempting, resist the urge to force the employee to take time off or to require fitness-for-duty certification in response to remarks involving suicide. Though it is possible the employee has a condition that would fall under the coverage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is best to refrain from making such an assumption. However, employers should be prepared to provide individuals with reasonable accommodations should the employee request such.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988. This is a national resource that may be accessed by anyone. If the employee is a veteran, press "1" to access the Veterans Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor.

CDC: Suicide Prevention

Five action steps for communicating with someone who may be suicidal.


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